Recently I transfered a few old home movies from VHS to digital files to send to my brother in Germany. We discuss them over Skype, telling each other to go to a certain time marker and pay attention. What do you notice? What did that mean? Was this how you remembered it? Was I like that?
My brother has always been one of my dearest friends, but he’s also good for verifying or adjusting my memories (as I do for him), in that very specific, interconnected way of family. I’ve always been fascinated by memory, by how mutable and unreliable it can be. Even your memories of yourself. I’d always thought I was a quiet child, shuffling along, not saying much. But in these videos I flail and show off, and I chirp in a voice that’s squeakier than I remember. I ham it up for the camera, which surprises the older me.
And that brings up even more questions. Was this the authentic us? Were we different because of the camera, or did the camera amplify the way we actually were? And is someone’s version of a memory more accurate or reliable than another’s? Was I the kid I thought I was, or the kid my brother thought I was?
I’m working on a story now where I try to answer some of these questions, but I think they’re more fun to ask than to answer, anyway.